Farmers Weekly Awards 2006

James Peck is the Firestone Young Farmer of the Year. Here’s why he won:

James Peck is a young man on a mission. His goal is as simple as it is ambitious: To increase his contracted farmed area to 2500ha (6175 acres) within seven years.

Three years after launching his own farming company PX Farms, 30-year-old James is well on course to achieving his goal. He has built a business which includes contract farming over 890ha (2190 acres) for eight landowners plus contract field work for 32 customers over a further 809ha (1998 acres). That is in addition to running the home unit of Scotland Farm, Dry Drayton. 

It is an expansion fuelled by his intuitive understanding of machinery management, commitment to recruiting and retaining the best people and his almost compulsive desire to cut the best deals possible.

“The right machinery, staff management, communication with customers and reliability are crucial to running a successful contracting business,” says James.

So when he took over the family’s Scotland farm, after his father decided to pursue interests outside farming, he began with a machinery sale. James is a man brimming not just with enthusiasm for machinery, but a passion to run it at maximum efficiency and minimum cost. “The sale allowed us to cut down on duplicated machinery and raise much needed capital for the new business of PX Farms,” says James.

His fleet today includes a Claas Lexion combine, Claas 55 tracklayer, Vaderstad Rapid drill, and a Bateman RB25-36m sprayer.

It is impressive firepower that has allowed James to expand his contract area while cutting costs and lifting yields.

Growing only first wheats with a break crop of oilseed rape has helped to improve blackgrass control and cut herbicide bills. Growing costs have been cut to £54/t for wheat and £132/t on oilseed rape, while average yields have climbed to 10.5t/ha and 3.65t/ha, respectively, supported by his use of large-scale machinery.

But any machine is only as good as the person who operates it – a fact recognised in the attention to detail James pays to staff selection and management. “I couldn’t manage without self motivated, first-class staff.”

Conservation as well as curbing costs feature in James’ farming approach. As part of the entry-level stewardship scheme, buffer strips have been installed on all headlands near water. Grass strips allow hedge cutting and ditch maintenance to be carried out on a two-year cycle which makes effective use of farm machinery and encourages biodiversity.

James is keen to support the local community by hosting school visits to Scotland Farm. And his can-do attitude has impressed Anglia TV producers, who regularly ask him to comment on farming topics.

Runner up:
• Andrew Mahon, Charlton Farms, Oxfordshire

A young man with responsibilities, management acumen, and attitude that belie his 30 years.

Back to full Farmers Weekly Awards 2006 listing